4 Words That Can Crush Any Woman’s Soul
“Oh. My. God. You are like soooooo totally skinny. Do you like even know how skinny you are? Do you ever eat?” Growing up, that question was hurled at me in a classic Valley Girl accent more times than I can count. Thankfully, that horrific inflection died a slow painful death in the 80s, but variations of these comments followed me through the 90s and early 2000s.
In 1985, at age 10, I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease; scleroderma. Among other symptoms, the disease caused my arms and legs to be contracted and twig-like. It didn’t matter how many Watchamacallit candy bars I ate, my limbs still resembled toothpicks. I could never figure out why adolescents and adults felt obligated to inform me about my appearance, as if I didn’t own a mirror. Would anyone ever approach an individual and say, ‘Wow! You are so fat! Do you even realize how fat you are? Do you just spend your day eating gallons of lard?’’ Or, ‘Holy crap, you’ve got the biggest nose I’ve ever seen! Do you have a better sense of smell than most?’ I think not.
It seems as though the term skinny is generally associated with a compliment. For many, having someone say ‘Wow, you look so skinny, have you lost weight?’ would be a dream come true. For me, the adjective skinny made me feel weird-looking and unattractive.
I know it’s human nature to take a visual audit of someone else’s appearance and then critique it. Too often though, we let this inner dialogue spill right out of our mouths. I try to make a general rule not to comment on other people’s physical features. Still, I’ve been guilty of making comments like, “You are seriously the cutest, most petite person I’ve ever seen!” While I think that’s a compliment, is it really necessary? Might those words make all the other women in the room feel like an awkward oaf? Besides, maybe the recipient of that well-intended remark may have always longed to be tall and curvy.
Throughout my teens and twenties, many woman would watch me down an Oreo milkshake with my cheese fries and exclaim, “Oh Lisa, I only wish I was able to eat whatever I wanted and never gain weight. You have no idea what it feels like to just look at chocolate and gain ten pounds.”
The tables turned on me in 2006. After my daughter’s healthy birth, I suffered grave complications from a massive infection which resulted in a 218-day hospital stay. I had multiple emergency surgeries and a myriad of other serious health issues that kept me from eating and drinking for five months. I came home weighing under 80 pounds and was placed on a high caloric diet. I thankfully was able to gain weight, but slowly began to notice my tummy was morphing into a genuine Homer Simpson beer belly. Six abdominal operations had left me with little stomach muscle and my compromised digestive system caused a lot of bloating. My arms and legs were still pipe cleaners, which only made my mid-section more disproportionate.
At first, I was so grateful to have made a meaningful recovery that I figured having an enormous belly was a small price to pay for getting to live and raise my kids. As the years passed, and my stomach kept expanding, I began to feel very self-conscious. Then, the dreaded 4-words that can crush even the toughest female’s self-esteem began to crop up from strangers. …….. “When are you due?” As a general PSA for all civilized humans; unless a baby is falling out from between a woman’s legs, please refrain from asking that question.
I went from being way too skinny to disproportionately large and fielded comments about my appearance on both extremes. In recent years, I have wrestled with my atypical physique and my affinity for doughnuts. Sometimes I wish I could wear a sign around my neck that read: ‘No, I’m not pregnant, just oddly shaped.’ The older I get, the more I realize that most women wish they could wear a sign around their neck. Maybe some would proclaim: ‘I’m not a snob, I just have a sour resting face’ or, ‘yes, I know I have a huge zit on my chin, but thanks for staring at it to remind me.’
Think how much happier we would be if we didn’t live our lives worrying what other people thought about how we look. I know in our beauty obsessed culture the chances of that ever happening are slim. It’s up to each of us to determine how much we’re going to let society dictate our self-worth. Or, we can try my sign idea……any takers? What would your sign say? Leave a comment (top icon below the title) and let me know.
I sincerely hope that this post wasn’t inspired by my “Burger AND chili?!?” comment the other night. xoxoxoxox your biggest fan
Another insightful article. Way to go Lisa!
I have to say I have two daughters that have been asked that question. And really that is a huge bully move. It hurt their feelings. But I am thankful that they eat and are not on strange diets or pills! You go Lisa
Lisa, first of all, let me say how much I enjoy your writings. Being somewhat of a writer myself, I commend you! With that said, I think my sign might read “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” I do, however, have a t-shirt that reads “To know me is to love me,”
And I can relate, at a recent hair salon appointment at a salon I have been going to for over 20 years, I might add, I was told by my stylist(and she is also the owner) that I was the envy of the whole salon. My first reaction was to chuckle, then I told her that the reason I can eat as many calories as I do, and stay so thin was I believe, partly(I do also try to eat healthy and do moderate exercise) because of scleroderma. I commented, they wouldn’t want this disease. My upper torso is very thin and my arms are kind of twig like, even though they do still surprisingly have some muscle tone due to the many years I did strength training. And sure enough, every summer I get comments(mostly from my mother!) on how thin my arms are. My shoulders are very boney as well due to losing muscle from scleroderma. So I know how you feel, gf!
Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment Denise! Sorry for my very delayed response.
I had a similar experience with my experience. I had a severe flare, lost my ability to walk for about six months, and was on a massive dose of steroids for a long time. I’m doing better now, but my face is still really puffy and I gained about 60 lbs. I’m eating well and exercising nearly every day, but I can’t seem to lose it. I’m happy and grateful to be doing so much better. My new appearance is tough to get used to, though.
Skinny, fat, tall, short…it’s what’s inside that counts and you’ve got that going Lisa!!
Thanks so much Cyndy!
You are always so inspiring, to all women; most of us are so hard on ourselves.
Thanks so much for your encouraging words